For such a relatively short-lived and obscure model in the U.S. market, the 90 model sure went through a substantial amount of changes. It makes nearly every model year unique in some way, and so few come to market they’re always neat to see regardless of the generation. The 90 replaced the 4000 for the 1988 model year with the upgraded Torsen-based quattro, the new B3 body and interior and the updated 2.3 NG 10V motor for the 88-89 model year, and was sold alongside the technically identical but less upscale 80 model for the same time. 1990 saw the introduction of the short-lived double-overhead cam 7A motor and some other minor changes, but scant numbers were brought over. Technically, there’s no ’92 90, but there are still some floating out there because…well, Audi. Then officially in ’93, the “B4” chassis arrived, with revised rear suspension, body bits and a new 2.8 liter V6. Even then, for the ’93-’95 B4 quattros, each model year was a bit different – surprising, given their very limited numbers. Available only in “CS” upscale trim, the 1993 90CS quattro, 1994 90CS quattro sport and 1995 Sport 90 quattro only combined for 2,855 examples. They’re pretty hard to find, though admittedly there are even fewer ’90-91 20Vs or ’92 80 quattros floating around.
Most of these cars were upscale and featured either the Speedline-made 10-spoke 15″ wheels or the later Ronal-made Votex 5-spoke design. A raised spoiler and limited badging were hallmarks of the later ’94-’95 sport models. Though generally not as desirable as the ’95 Sport model, the ’94 is more rare and just about identical to the ’95 model. So, when they arrive in near perfect condition with under 100,000 miles, the bids start rolling in for the devoted fans who love them:
Audi’s interesting sales plan of S-cars in the early 2000s was, for U.S. fans, both good and disappointing at the same time. Mega models like the RS4 continued to be withheld from this side of the Atlantic just as the S2, RS2 and S6 Plus had been. The new generation of V8 powered S cars had yet to arrive, too; movies teased us of the slithering, nitrous oxide-boosted battering ram S8, and though the C5 chassis now sported the V8 in 2000, we had yet to see the S6.
But there were bright points. The B5 S4 was available as a sedan or Avant here, for the first time, in 2001 the flagship S8 arrived and after a wait until 2002, the S6 arrived in Avant form. And, only in Avant form, and only in automatic. You could complain about that for sure, but then the introduction at long last of an RS model – the twin-turbocharged RS6 – assuaged the loss of the regular S6 sedan for nearly everyone.
Once in a while, though, a S6 sedan pops up on this side of the Atlantic:
Update 5/18/18 – After failing to sell last year at nearly $8,000, this sweet and rare 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V with some fantastic period-correct BBS RS wheels is back on eBay with an opening bid at only $4,000!
Just as they had with the development of the 10V Turbo for their top tier products, Audi’s work on the Group B, Sport and later RR 20V Quattro (along with the creation of the original S-series cars soon after) trickled down into the rest of the range, but only in a very limited fashion. The 7A 2.3 liter 20V motor was the beneficiary of that racing work, and it was at the time a pretty impressive unit. Out of 2.3 liters, Audi squeezed a very reliable 164 horsepower with a screaming 7,200 RPM redline. While it’s true this was down on peak power to racing motors like the M3’s S14, the adding of the second cam and a modern EFI engine management also yielded nearly 160 ft.lb of torque.
So why does everyone claim that this car was under-powered?
Weight. The luxury-oriented B3 was most popular in Coupe form, where at 3,300 lbs in 1991 it was in need of a diet. It was 30 horsepower down on the BMW, and weighed 500 lbs more, with a more frontward weight bias. A performance car this did not make, and the result was that the expensive Audis leisurely gained speed. Despite the near 50% power increase over the outgoing Coupe GT, a stock B3 Coupe Quattro shared near identical 0-60 times and cost $10,000 more.
But if you were a clever buyer, you could get slightly better performance out of the 4-door variant of the naturally aspirated double overhead cam inline-5. That’s because concurrent with Coupe production, the motor and drivetrain was offered in the slightly lighter 90 quattro 20V:
Let’s go back to the beginning of Type 44 production today and take a look at this Audi 5000S. To me, this car represents just about the least appealing model in the lineup for 1985. No turbo, no quattro, automatic, Kalahari Beige Metallic – it really doesn’t get more yawn than this. “But it’s a ‘S’ model“, you say. Ah, but continuing on the theme of Audi’s unconventional naming strategy in the U.S., there was cleverly no non-S model for a few years – everyone got a participation trophy.
As it turns out, there were a lot of ‘everyone’. The new 5000, which started selling in the U.S. in 1984, was a massive success for Audi. In fact, it was far and away the most successful model they sold in the 1980s. And while we love to see turbos and quattro and manuals, it was specifically this car – gold Audi 5000S front-drive automatics – that sold in droves. Audi sold 48,057 5000s in 1985, for example. Only about 20% were Turbos. And the quattro model didn’t launch until very late in the year. Even when it did, they similarly never accounted for more than 20% of sales of the Type 44.
Still, ~40,000 doesn’t sound like a bit number. But consider Audi sold a total of 26,000 other cars between the Coupe, Quattro and all 4000s the same year. And the 5000’s proliferation wasn’t just over one model year. From 1984 to 1988, Audi sold 171,494 Type 44s in the U.S. and was really only limited by the November 1986 airing of the 60 Minutes debacle. This ’85 is representative of how a majority were delivered, but is not indicative of the condition of most today:
Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in the past two posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.
But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.
For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a big sedan from Audi:
So on to the C4 chassis. Though it was instantly recognizable as an Audi, the all-new C4 bore little resemblance to the boxy C3 it replaced. Fluid lines and curves dominated the design, while new running gear and motors made a splash in performance. The C4 continued to stress Audi’s pioneering aerodynamic tradition, but the result this time was a car which seemed far less top-heavy than the chassis it replaced. It looked more trim even if it was a big bigger than the outgoing model.
On the fly, the 100’s new motivation was a revelation. The 2.8 liter V6 replaced the 2.3 liter inline-5, and though horsepower was only 172 and torque 184, both figures represented a nearly 30% gain over the 5-pot. New, too, was a 4-speed automatic transmission. And while the inside looked little different from the last of the C3, only switch gear was shared and the C4 brought a host of new safety and convienence features to the large-chassis Audi.
Strange, though, was the re-appearance of Audi’s earlier naming convention in the U.S.. Back in the early days of the 5000, Audi had used the “S” and “CS” monikers to denote turbo and quattro models at times (but, again being Audi, inconsistently). Well, the S and CS were back after a four-year hiatus. Base model 100 came with steel wheels, while the “S” model stepped you up in options and gave you alloys. But outside of the 20V turbo S4 model, the 100 to get was still the 100CS, which was the most loaded and gave you the option for Audi’s quattro drivetrain. Fully loaded, they were around $35,000 – not cheap, but also not the most expensive in class, and were still unique in offering all-wheel drive.
However, like the C3, the front-drive 100/100S/100CS outsold the quattro model by a fair margin.…
Today’s car is going to start a bit of a series of big-body Audis from the 1990s for me. Why start here? Well, the 1991 Audi 100 was a end of an era for Ingolstadt’s products in the U.S. For a little over a decade the big-body cars had been powered by inline-5 motors, and the NG 2.3 liter unit under the hood of this 1991 was at the end of its life span. 1991 would see the introduction of the new V6 motor that would become the staple of Audi for the nearly decade and a half. Late 1991 also saw the introduction of the Type 44/C3’s replacement – the all-new C4 chassis. Well, I saw “all new”, but inside it didn’t really look like it changed much. Outside, though…
There were other changes to the new 100 that I’ll go through in the next post. But let’s talk about today’s 100, which was really just a dressed up 5000. Like all the Type 44s, it received a revised interior with the nomenclature swap in late 1988. Dynamically, though, there were basically no changes from 1987. In fact, the ’87 5000 front-drive shared more in common with the Turbo than the later model which shared many components with the small chassis cars.
The front-drive 100 soundly outsold its more expensive 100 quattro and 200 brethren. Somewhere around 5,000 1991 100 front-drive sedans and Avants were sold here, but finding them today can be a bit of a trick:
Audi’s attention to detail in 1986 was…well, poor. Contrary to the never-wrong-Internet’s common belief structure and commentary every time an 80s Audi appears on a site, this had nothing to do with the quality of the cars they built. They were, in fact, very nice cars, and they have generally withstood the test of time as well as their countrymen and better in aggregate than the majority of 1980s cars.
So what was their problem with detail work? Well, notoriously Audis from the 1980s stood a good chance of being in some unusual specification which didn’t conform to what Audi claimed was available. Let’s take this 1986 Audi Coupe GT for example. According to Audi’s literature, if you bought the Commemorative Design 2-door in 1986, you got a special electronic digital dashboard with accompanying “Audi Electronic” oil temperature/voltmeter in place of the typical VDO 3-gauge center dash readout.
Except that wasn’t the only way to get the electronic dash. Because even though it apparently wasn’t an option you could select, Audi must have had a surplus or stock in ColecoVision, because they installed a bunch of these dashboards in a random selection of 1986 and some early 1987s. I know, because I have one of them. Here’s another, and this one only has 28,000 miles:
Just the other day, an old car friend of mine contacted our group of enthusiasts with an interesting challenge. He currently owns a Nissan 370Z, and while he really likes the car he’s got a family and needs something a bit more practical. So he queried the group; what car should he get in the $40,000 range that was special, fast, had 4-doors and a manual transmission?
Several thoughts came to mind, and I’m sure that everyone’s head is already spinning like mine did. While immediately several went to BMW M products like the E39 M5, I had an alternate suggestion which also considered where my friend lives – New Hampshire. ‘What about the Audi S4?’ I suggested. He admitted had hadn’t thought of one, in part because he previously owned a S4 – in his case a B5 – and didn’t love the driving experience.
Well, since the S4 has come a long way since the 1990s in power, technology, size and driving experience. And what has emerged is a very impressive all-arounder which flies under the radar. The supercharged V6 in the B8 gave a healthy 333 horsepower an Russian steppe-flat torque curve with 325 lb.ft available from 3,000 rpms straight through 5,250. This power could be channeled through two increasing rare options to find in electronics-heavy cars – a manual gearbox and a sport differential. Okay, 333 horsepower doesn’t sound outlandish in today’s world. But as with fast Audis of the past, the B8 and 8.5 made efficient use of that power and putting it down on the ground, making them capable of 4.4 second 0-60 sprints and a 13 second quarter-mile. This is a car which punches above its weight class, capable of embarrassing unsuspecting muscle cars.
Yet it retains its luxury-oriented character and go-anywhere all-wheel drive options, along with the practicality of offering 4-doors.…
In the long list of Audis I don’t really consider particularly appealing, the U.S.C2 is pretty high on the leader board. A design befuddled by Federally-mandated bumpers, perhaps its redeeming quality is that it introduced us to the characteristic inline-5 thrum that would hold over until the end of C4 production. Of course, what really made all of those cars sing was forced induction, and so within the C2 range, the model that ostensibly is the most desirable is the Turbo. And it was, when in ‘5T’ Euro 200 form. However, the U.S. cars were turned down, weighed down, and solely opted with a 3-speed automatic. Interest in this post has, at this point, waned nearly as much as the surviving examples have.
There was also a diesel, and a turbo diesel, version the C2. While they make frozen molasses heading uphill look brisk, they’ve at least got the diesel clique going for them. That leaves the normally aspirated Audi 5000S third in desirability in my ranking for a chassis I wouldn’t intentionally seek out. Not high praise, and this is coming from a pretty strong defender of the ringed corner of our world. But you could get a 5-speed manual, at least. This car doesn’t have that going for it, either, alas.
But am I glad someone saved one from being scrapped? Yeah, I sure am!